06/11/2011 5:56PM

Manhattan: Longshot Mission Approved has everything his own way on the lead

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Kim Pratt
Mission Approved (right), Jose Espinoza up, scores a 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Normally, a robbery in Manhattan isn’t major news. The theft that took place in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park will certainly make headlines – at least in the racing world.

Mission Approved, who was claimed exactly one year ago for $35,000 and unraced for 11 months, took control of Saturday's Manhattan soon after the start under Jose Espinoza and was never seriously threatened en route to a 1 1/4-length victory in the Manhattan. Sent off at 21-1, Mission Approved returned $44.

Bim Bam, another longshot, finished second a head in front of two-time Manhattan winner and race favorite Gio Ponti, a three-time Eclipse Award winner.

The win was the first Grade 1 for 54-year-old trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul, who claimed this 7-year-old son of With Approval on June 11, 2010 for $35,000.

After nearly stealing the Man o' War at 52-1 last year – he was run down by a head by Goo Ponti – Mission Approved developed a quarter crack, and Chatterpaul couldn’t get him back to the races by the time the turf season was over.

"I just put [laid] him up," Chatterpaul said. "I felt it was the best thing to [lay] him up until the turf was ready."

Chatterpaul said he couldn’t get a prep for the Manhattan so he ran him in this 1 1/4-mile turf race off an 11-month layoff.

"I figured I’d keep training him and get him right for this race," Chatterpaul said. "I just feel that he was coming into this race really good, I had a lot of confidence in him and I admire him."

Mission Approved outsprinted Straight Story for the lead and carved out fractions of 24.92 seconds for the quarter, 51.47 for the half-mile, 1:17.45 for six furlongs, and 1:42.44 for the mile.

Though Bim Bam made a run at him at the quarter pole, Mission Approved spurted away again and covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:06.32.

"As long as he’s in front, he’s not a horse that's going to give it up, not that easy," Chatterpaul said. "It really takes a good horse to run him down, but not today."

Gio Ponti, a six-time Grade 1 winner, was second to last down the backside under Ramon Dominguez and had to go widest of all turning for home. Making his first start since running fifth in the Dubai World Cup in March, Gio Ponti may have gotten a little tired over the yielding ground. Gio Ponti carried 122 pounds, eight more than the winner.

"Slow pace, ground, and it just confirms what I think about handicaps in Grade 1’s, which is it’s a complete waste of time," said Christophe Clement, trainer of Gio Ponti. "He only got beat a touch more than a length. First race back from the break, he will improve from the race on firmer ground. He'll probably go to the Man o' War and take them on. He'll be back."